Alan D. Bell Attorney at Law
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Improper use of ulcer medication in labor is potentially deadly

When you entrust a doctor with your medical care, you are putting your health and your life in that professional's hands. When it comes to pregnancy, labor and delivery, you're trusting a doctor with more than your life. You're also trusting this professional to do what's right for your unborn baby.

Most doctors do everything in their power to uphold that trust and do the right thing for their patients. Sadly, some doctors put personal convenience or ego before the well-being of their patients.

When that happens, it can result in a tragedy. One all-too-common example of a doctor making a poor medical decision is the administration of a well-known ulcer medication to speed up cervical effacement or labor. Doing so puts both mother and baby at risk of injury or even death.

Cytotec or misoprostol isn't safe for pregnant women

The drug misoprostol, marketed under the brand name Cytotec, is an ulcer medication. It is not approved for use in pregnant women or during labor. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration provides clear warnings about the potential for serious side effects, including tearing of the uterus.

Despite this label and the fact that speeding up labor is rarely medically necessary, some doctors still choose to give this drug to women. Maybe they have a tee time they don't want to miss. Perhaps it's the end of a long shift. It's even possible they've given the drug to many other women before without an issue. Still, there is potential for catastrophic side effects in a small percentage of women, and the risks far outweigh the minimal benefits offered by the drug.

Uterine tearing and dangerous bleeding can occur

In some women, especially those who have had several previous births, a previous Cesarean delivery or other uterine surgery, the drug can cause the uterus to tear or rupture. That, in turn, causes intense bleeding that can prove fatal if not immediately addressed. The damage to the uterus can also endanger the life of the unborn infant. In a worst-case scenario, mother, baby or both could end up dead.

Even if medical intervention prevents a tragic outcome, those who experience uterine tearing could very well experience loss of their future fertility. In some cases, the damage requires the removal of the uterus, which can cause a host of lingering side effects for the mother.

Off-label administration of a drug may be malpractice

When a doctor makes a medically questionable decision that deviates from best practices, some consider that malpractice. When that decision causes direct harm to a patient, the patient or surviving family members deserve justice. Depending on the circumstances, there may be grounds for either a medical malpractice claim or a wrongful death lawsuit after off-label administration of Cytotec to a woman in labor.

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Alan D. Bell
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Bloomfield, NJ 07003

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